Dozens of Facts About Butler County and the Civil War, 1861-1865
Butler County voters failed to support Lincoln in ‘60 and ‘64 elections
(This the 11th "Dozen of Facts About Butler County and the Civil War," a series of random columns related to brief comments on Butler County’s role in the Civil War, 1861-1865. The columns are in conjunction with the observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, 2010-2015. The reprint edition of Jim Blount’s 1998 book, The Civil War and Butler County, is available at several outlets, or by contacting Books in Shandon, 4795 Cincinnati-Brookville Road (Ohio 126), Shandon, OH 45063, or phone 738-2962 or 523-4005.)
Compiled by Jim Blount
Politics continued in the northern states after members of Congress from 11 Confederate states withdrew from the House of Representatives and the Senate. There was the usual mix of cooperation, opposition and second-guessing as President Abraham Lincoln assumed direction of the Union forces. Management of the war posed frequent questions about the respective powers of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.
121. Lincoln won the 1860 election with a minority of the popular vote. But in 1861 he assumed the presidency as leader of the majority party. After southern secession, Republicans held 108 of 183 seats remaining in the U. S. House. Republicans prevailed 31 to 18 in U. S. Senate.
122. Representing Butler County in the U. S. Congress during the war were Senators Benjamin F. Wade and John Sherman, both Republicans, and Representatives Clement L. Vallandigham, a Democrat, until March 3, 1863, and Robert C. Schenck, a Republican, during the remainder of the conflict. Schenck, a native of Franklin, was graduated from Miami University in 1827 and was a professor at Miami, 1827-1829. He was a congressman and diplomat from 1843 until 1861, when he was commissioned a brigadier-general in the Union army. He was a major general when he resigned to assume his seat in the U. S. House.
123. Despite his legislative advantage in 1861, Lincoln directed the early stages of the war without Congress. After the April 12 attack on Fort Sumter, requiring war mobilization, Lincoln seized the initiative. He refused to call Congress into special session. By July 4, 1861, when Congress finally convened, the legislators had only two choices: ratify Lincoln’s war actions over the previous four months or undo them.
124. Ohio had 18 seats in the U. S. House of Representatives based on the 1860 census and the 1861 apportionment. Only two states had more members, New York with 31 and Pennsylvania with 23. Among the 11 states that seceded, Virginia had the most with 11 representatives.
125. "Of the original 26 members of the Confederate Senate, 14 were former united States congressmen," according to Facts About the Civil War, published in 1960 by the Civil War Centennial Commission.
126. Before the Civil War, in determining congressional representation in the slave states, slaves had counted as 3/5ths of person, although they couldn’t vote. The "3/5th Compromise," also known as the "Great Compromise," was part of the U. S. Constitution written in 1787. Before the compromise, northern and southern delegates took opposite positions on the matter. About 25 of the 55 delegates are believed to have been slave owners. The word slave isn’t in the Constitution. The compromise was carefully worded, declaring that population for representation purposes would be decided by counting the number of "free persons . . . plus three-fifths of all other persons."
127. After Lincoln's election, Ohio Republicans recommended William Dean Howells for a position in the first GOP administration. In 1861, Lincoln appointed him U. S. consul at Venice, Italy, a post that gave Howells time to travel, observe European culture and gather material that later became part of his varied writings as he became "the dean of American letters." Howells produced 35 novels, 35 plays, four books of poetry, six books of criticism, 34 miscellaneous volumes, edited Atlantic Monthly and wrote hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles before his death in 1920. In June 1860, Howells -- a Hamilton resident 1840-48 -- had written an "authorized Lincoln biography" which boosted his candidacy for president.
128. Civil War vocabulary: A soldier’s letter, diary or journal may mention "a Napoleon," but it isn’t a reference to a French dictator participating in the U. S. war. In this case, the Napoleon was "the basic artillery piece on both sides," the 12-pounder Napoleon. According to Mark M. Boatner III in The Civil War Dictionary. "It was a smoothbore, muzzle-loading field piece with a caliber of 4.62 inches," Boatner wrote. "Developed under the auspices of Napoleon III, it appeared in 1856 and was adopted by the U. S. Army before the Civil War."
129. As in 1860, Abraham Lincoln failed to carry Butler County in the 1864 presidential election. Democrat George B. McClellan, a former general, beat Lincoln, 3,787 to 2,676, in Butler County. But Lincoln won Ohio by more than 60,000 votes.
130. The youngest Butler County soldier to die during the war hadn’t reached his 16th birthday. Pvt. Louis F. Berry was a member of Captain J. W. C. Smith’s Butler County, which was the first unit to train at Camp Hamilton at the Butler County Fairgrounds in April 1861. He was in Co., 26th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Camp Gauley, Va. (later West Virginia) when he died Sept. 16, 1861. The cause of death was reported as ‘congestive fever." His age was 15 years, 11 months, when he died. He’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton
131. Members of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment -- bored by the inaction of guarding a railroad line in 1861 -- devised a regimental activity that broke the monotony. It was a rabbit hunt, but not the type of hunting that the soldiers had practiced in the fields and woods of rural Butler County. There were no guns. Instead, their weapons were clubs -- a choice dictated by orders not to waste ammunition. Members of a company or two -- as many as 150 to 200 men -- would deploy in neat lines, forming a human box around a Central Kentucky field. On command, the human box would shrink. The club-wielding soldiers would walk forward, scaring the rabbits into the middle of the field. Those in the center -- and any rabbits that tried to escape through the tightening lines -- were clubbed to death. A rabbit roast was a rewarding climax to the event.
132. The First Ohio -- led by Colonel Alexander McDowell McCook -- was formed from "some of the old [Ohio] militia companies, and its ranks were largely filled by young men of the best social and pecuniary advantages," noted Whitelaw Reid, a Miami graduate who became the first historian of Ohio's Civil War years."So prompt was its response . . . that within 60 hours after the telegraph brought the President's call, the [railroad] cars were bearing the regiment to Washington," recalled Reid, who won fame during the war as a correspondent for a Cincinnati newspaper. The morning of April 19, the First Ohio was on a train headed to Washington, D. C., to help protect the nation's capital against possible Confederate invasion. Captain John P. Bruck's Jackson Guards, mostly Hamiltonians of German ancestry, formed most of Company K in McCook’s the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.